Twilight Fire Bringing the Dunes Back Better

Published on Thursday, 29 June 2023 at 9:52:00 AM

Rehabilitation work on the Twilight Sand Dunes is in full swing after the unfortunate fire in May this year. The dunes were previously smothered in the introduced Pyp Grass, planted in the 1980s to stabilise the dunes. It did the job! But it’s also been outcompeting native vegetation. The aftermath of the fire provides the Shire and community with a great opportunity to control this introduced grass, and allow our local endemic species a chance to repopulate the approximately 3.5 hectares of fire scar the grass had previously covered. 

Most of the approximately 10,000 native seedlings and several kilograms of regional native coastal species seed needed to revegetate the dunes were locally sourced, as the Shire seeks to support our regional businesses.

The revegetation project will be a community effort, with Shire Environmental, Town Construction and Parks & Reserves teams putting in solid hours, augmented by community and school groups. The awesome Wongutha CAPS Bushranger Team planted 1,100 seedlings earlier this month; Environmental Coordinator, Julie Waters explains “The Wongutha Bushrangers, and the teachers leading them, are a fantastic asset. The 17 students in the group are completing their Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management, learning skills on the ground in coastal revegetation that they can use elsewhere, as some of these students may end up working as Rangers or similar in the future”. 

One of the reseeding activities saw our Environmental team making seed bombs with school groups. These are fist sized balls of seed, soil and clay that the kids throw into the dunes from the paths – they loved it, enthusiastically hurling over 200 seed balls into the most delicate sections of the dunes. It’s great involvement for the kids to learn about our environment, deepen their understanding of fire and bushfires, and they get to help revegetate without disturbing the dunes. As one of the students said, “I felt really happy that we are planting trees for the community to bring back biodiversity and make new homes for animals.” 

The Shire will continue to work in partnership with the skilled and dedicated Esperance Tjaltjraak Ranger Team on direct seeding of the bare parts of the dune, as well as long term photo monitoring. This will document the revegetation efforts, enable evaluation of the recovery, and show the story of the project as a whole. 

The rehabilitation of the dunes is being carried out based on best practice coastal restoration and rehabilitation techniques, and draws on knowledge, advice and learnings from other restoration activities following fires in areas such as Margaret River and the south west. Taking advantage of the natural habits of the Pyp grass, it will be allowed to grow back a little in some areas to help stabilise the dunes, before Shire staff or contractors safely spray it out with a grass selective herbicide. This will suppress growth, and allow the seedlings and seed to grow without being outcompeted. 

Keep an eye out for our wonderful staff and community groups working on this project while you’re in the area, and please remember that staying on the paths helps more than you realise - we all want to keep erosion to a minimum while dunes recover. Together, we can restore our local dune environments!

29 June 2023

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